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Making your own drone with open source hardware and software

Making your own drone with open source hardware and software

Arducopter

Arducopter is an easy to use multirotor / helicopter UAV. Arducopter runs on the ArduPilot/Pixhawk autopilot. With GPS, this APM/pixhawk is a complete UAV solution that sets it apart from traditional multirotor which often only support remote control. The Arducopter system features fully autonomous way-point based flight, with mission planning and real time telemetry via the powerful ground control station. The code is capable of controlling all of the major rotor wing airframes, including Traditional Helicopters, Tricopter(3/Y6), Quadrotor (X/+), Hexa(X/+), and Octa(X/+/V). All you need to do is change the firmware and some parameters on your ArduPilot Mega board.

Note that Arducopter software is fairly mature and has some great power features, but is considered to be at the end of its life, from a software viewpoint, future features are due to be on the Pixhawk only.

PixHawk

Pixhawk is an independent, open-hardware project aiming at providing high-end autopilot hardware to the academic, hobby and industrial communities at low costs and high availability. It provides hardware for the #Linux Foundation DroneCode project. It originated from the PIXHAWK Project of the Computer Vision and Geometry Lab of ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) and Autonomous Systems Lab as well from a number of excellent individuals

pic-prod-pixhawk1

Some of the features of the Pixhawk are good for safety such as dual GPS, the EKF (an algorithm to spot faults) and in the pipeline sense and avoid.

VRBRAIN

VRBRAIN autopilot system is a versatile UAV system based around the VRBRAIN multipurpose board loaded with a 32 bit version of Arducopter firmware and a ground station based on Mission Planner software. The autopilot controls the multicopter during flight using internal gyroscopes, accelerometers, and other electronic components. Flight missions are created using Mission Planner on your ground station and loaded onto the autopilot. Once the copter is placed in autonomous mode, the autopilot receives location data from the GPS module and executes the mission script. For safety, a radio control (RC) receiver is connected to the APM to allow for manual control using an RC transmitter.

APM, PX4 and Pixhawk are "open source" and "open hardware" and are supported by an international team of developers. Pixhawk and VRBrain development is ongoing and improvements and new capabilities are added very frequently.

Creating your own drone

Required

  • Flight controller ArduPilot Mega or Pixhawk
  • Frame (or multi-rotor frame)
  • Motor to rotates the propeller
  • ESC are used to control the brushless motors and are rated in terms on Amps, the amp rating of your ESC will need to match that of the motor you are using
  • Multi-rotors generally use large propellers, 10×45, and 12×47 are the most popular.
  • Radio Transmitter/Receiver
  • Battery and Charger
  • Optional

  • Wireless Telemetry Kit
  • Optical Flow Sensor – used to help with position hold at low altitudes.
  • Ultrasonic Rangefinder (Sonar) used to help with your drone altitude hold at low altitudes (under 10m), above 10m the built in barometer is used.
  • Battery Monitor to warn you when the battery is low so you can land.
  • Camera Gimbal
  • Wireless Video FPV
  • On Screen Display
  • The most important part of your drone is the flight controller. There are currently two main boards to choose from, ArduPilot Mega v2.6 or Pixhawk. The flight controller keeps your multi-rotor stable while you are flying in manual mode, and can take over to fly to 3D waypoints when you fly in autonomous mode.

    PixhawkQuad

    About The Author

    Cédric Walter

    I worked with various Insurances companies across Switzerland on online applications handling billion premium volumes. I love to continuously spark my creativity in many different and challenging open-source projects fueled by my great passion for innovation and blockchain technology. In my technical role as a senior software engineer and Blockchain consultant, I help to define and implement innovative solutions in the scope of both blockchain and traditional products, solutions, and services. I can support the full spectrum of software development activities, starting from analyzing ideas and business cases and up to the production deployment of the solutions. I'm the Founder and CEO of Disruptr GmbH.

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